The Nexstar marketing chief says he knows what Brian Brady’s Fox affiliate in Spokane, Wash., is going through as it battles Time Warner Cable for retrans fees. Nexstar went through much the same thing in 2005 in several markets, but it paid off.
When I read your interview Tuesday with Brian Brady and KAYU’s retrans battle with Time Warner Cable in Spokane, Wash., I couldn’t help but remember the old Yogi Berra line: “This is like dÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©jÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â vu all over again.”
That’s because Nexstar Broadcasting did the same thing in 2005—demanded cash from cable operators and yanked its signals in four markets.
The similarities are eerily similar, right down to the rhetoric.
Brady says the cable operator “puts no value on over-the-air broadcasting.” That statement brought to mind the image of our COO, Duane Lammers, who, along with Nexstar’s President and CEO Perry Sook, were the architects of our cash-for-retrans strategy.
Standing in the conference room across from my office, Lammers waved a penny in front of some cable operators offering to allow our signals to go back on their systems immediately, if they would only agree that our signals were worth “at least a penny” as a starting point for negotiations. They refused.
I also read the Time Warner representative in Spokane saying that KAYU was “not concerned about the viewers” was almost the identical claim the cable operators made about us.
Nexstar Senior VP Brian Jones countered: “If the cable operators were concerned about their viewers, they’d allow their viewers to just pay for the channels they watch, instead of bundling the channels together.”
Eventually, Nexstar settled its disputes and now the majority of the cable operators pay cash. Over the next five years, it will amount to about $50 million.
So my advice to KAYU is to stand your ground. Educate the viewers. Tell them that the cable operators pay for every channel except the local broadcast ones. Tell them that they might be paying up to a dollar a month for little-watched channels like MTV.
Encourage viewers to turn in their cable box for a satellite dish, since the satellite operators pay for the local broadcast signals. Invite the satellite operators to set up shop in a highly visible spot in front of your stations to sign up subscribers.
Encourage viewers to watch your network programming—and especially your local news—online. Use your news to keep the facts and the issue in front of your viewers.
And my advice for cable operators: This ship has sailed. Paying broadcasters for the right to air their signals is fair and overdue. With the stations’ ability to stream live programming and news directly to viewers, it’s in your best interest to secure retrans rights now, while the price is right.